winter 2011 hacking project: Home Automation

In the last 10+ years I was fiddling with different home automation concepts. Mostly without broad use cases because at that time no one seemed to be interested in having sensors and actors like crazy at home. In fact not that many people seem to care these days.

Having more and more hardware and software around us creates the use cases for a broader audience people like me have for 10+ years. Mainstream is a bitch for nerds Smiley

That said I found a nice plastic box I want to use in a winter project. This plastic box is called “EzControl XS1”. It comes with several visible and “invisible” interfaces.

The visible and obvious ones are: power, 100 mbit ethernet, sd card slot. So it takes some power and does something on the network. The not so obvious and therefore “invisible” interfaces are the most interesting ones: the EzControl XS1 comes with the ability to send and receive on 433 Mhz and 868 Mhz.

ezcontrol_xs1-200

Yes that are the ranges used by switchable and dimable power sockets, temperature sensor and AMR. The EzControl XS1 is not that cheap (coming at 189 Euros for the base version and additional 65 Euros per upgrade option). I do not own one yet so it’s the plan to acquire at least one and start of with dimable power sockets and add more sensors and actors on the way

One great feature of the EzControl XS1 is the embedded WebServer with which the users application (the one I want to write) can interact using a HTTP/JSON Protocol. Oh dear: Sensor data and Actor control using JSON. How great is that!

There is some example code available (even a proprietary iPad/iPhone client) but since I want to have some custom features I do not currently see to be available in software I am going to write a set of tools which will get and protocol sensor data and run scripts to controls actors. Oh it’ll be all available as open source (license not yet chosen).

P.S.: If some one from Rose+Herleth is reading this and wants to help – send me a test unit Smiley

Source 1: http://www.ezcontrol.de (in german though)
Source 2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_meter_reading
Source 3: http://www.ezcontrol.de/content/view/12/31/

137 years of Popular Science is available now

That’s great news for everyone interested in science and history. As it turns out Google and PopSci just made their entire 137-year archive available online… good times!

“We’ve partnered with Google to offer our entire 137-year archive for free browsing. Each issue appears just as it did at its original time of publication, complete with period advertisements. It’s an amazing resource that beautifully encapsulates our ongoing fascination with the future, and science and technology’s incredible potential to improve our lives. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do.”

137years

Source: http://www.popsci.com/archives

Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!

pope

I was in desperate need for an DDate equivalent running on Windows. DDate is an unix implementaion of date accoridng to the erisian calendar described in the principia discordia.

I only found some C Implementations. And since it’s fun to do I ported the original Discordian Date C code to C#.

You can download the C# sourcecode, licensed under CC-BY-NC here.

I also created a web page which displays the current discordian date and offers you to convert any gregorian date into discordian date representation.

This page can be accesses here. You can call another page with parameters and you only will get the ddate output back:

for example: http://ddate.schrankmonster.de/DiscordianDate.aspx?year=2009&month=6&day=9

Source 1: http://ddate.schrankmonster.de/
Source 2: http://dropbox.schrankmonster.de/dropped/SharpDDateLib.zip

SpaceX’ Falcon 1 reaches orbit

On September 28th the Falcon 1 rocketship reached orbit:

orbital2

“In an era when most technology based products follow a path of ever-increasing capability and
reliability while simultaneously reducing costs, launch vehicles today are little changed from those of
40 years ago. SpaceX aims to change this paradigm by developing a family of launch vehicles and
spacecraft which will ultimately increase the reliability and reduce the cost of space access by a factor
of ten. Coupled with the emerging market for private and commercial space transport, this new model
will re-ignite humanity’s efforts to explore and develop space.”

faclon1

Source: http://www.spacex.com/webcast.php

Building Earth

Steffi and I made our own version of earth some years ago using 3D Studio and NASA Images – we even made an animation. But this guy does a way better job – creating a photorealistic earth:

“For some time now, I’ve been studying how to build Earth in Blender. I’ve read quite a few tutorials, studied NASA’s Blue Marble images, and received critique from other Blender enthusiasts. I now have some satisfactory results, which I’d be happy to share.

I’ve put together a 21-page tutorial which explains how I achieved my Earth renders. I know there are already a lot of Earth tutorials out there – but none that I found helped me get quite the effect that I wanted. My tutorial combines what I gleaned from all the other tutorials, with what I learned on my own through hours of experimenting. I’m sure it’s not perfect – but I think it will be helpful for anyone interested in the subject.

The tutorial focuses on three different models of Earth – a photographic-style Earth, a Blue-Marble-style Earth, and a night Earth. It demonstrates how to render details such as proper specular shading and ray-traced cloud shadows.”

There’s a free pdf tutorial available that shows how to create these 3D renderings with blender.

Earth Poster

Source 1: http://chamberlinproductions.110mb.com/mappedearth.html
Source 2: “what’s the size of the earth compared to”
Source 3: http://web.olp.net/wildernesslodge/Earth%20Tutorial.pdf

NASA opens it’s picture library

It’s just great to see more and more big archives are getting available online. This time the National Space Agency of America opened it’s picture library:

“NASA Images is a service of Internet Archive ( www.archive.org ), a non-profit library, to offer public access to NASA’s images, videos and audio collections. NASA Images is constantly growing with the addition of current media from NASA as well as newly digitized media from the archives of the NASA Centers.
The goal of NASA Images is to increase our understanding of the earth, our solar system and the universe beyond in order to benefit humanity. “

nasa

Source: http://www.nasaimages.org/

TVR is back in business and they just presented the 2008 Sagaris 2 *drool*

That’s the best news for months!! After TVR being out of business for some time they seem to be back in business now – they even presented the new Sagaris 2008 modell yesterday.

“Announced this morning by TVR Managing Director, David Oxley, at an exclusive preview event held at the new TVR development works in Lancashire, England – TVR Production has resumed!

Upon the momentous occasion, which included invited members of the TVR Car Club, TVR staff presented the TVR Sagaris model year 2008. Exterior design has remained the same except for new 5 spoke wheels, while the interior receives a new center console with satellite navigation.

As promised back in 2006 by TVR owner, Nikolai Smolenski said “My intention is to expand the sales and distribution of TVR cars throughout Europe, the rest of the world and USA markets is a key part of the business strategy of the company.” Built as a left hand drive model, the 2008 Sagaris confirms it will be exported internationally.

Preliminary pricing puts the 2008 TVR Sagaris just below 85.000 Euros.”

So now the only thing I need is the money to buy one of these beasts… I’ll have one in black or white :-)

IMG_1956-1024
the re-designed interior included satnav…touchscreen…

back3
…and re-designed exhausts… I actually liked the side-exausts better…

IMG_1945-1024
the new bonnet … and the gorgeous speed six…*raaawwr*

Source 1: http://www.worldcarfans.com/9080710.012/page1/tvr-production-restarts—2008-sagaris-presented
Source 2: http://www.tvr-car-club.co.uk/tvrpreviewevent.asp

german Citizens’ band radio over the internet…Freies Funknetz!

The internet makes things possible some people dreamt of for years. One of these things is the possibility to stream live-voice-chat over the internet. Many people used the citizens’ band radio – CB radio – for the last decades:

Citizens’ Band radio (CB) is, in many countries, a system of short-distance, simplex[1] radio communications between individuals on a selection of 40 channels within the 27 MHz (11 meter) band. The CB radio service should not be confused with FRS, GMRS, MURS, or amateur (“ham”) radio. Similar personal radio services exist in other countries, with varying requirements for licensing and differing technical standards. In many countries, CB does not require a license and, unlike amateur radio, it may be used for business as well as personal communications.”

For several years now there is a group of people from virtually everywhere in germany who connect their CB radios to the internet – they link their “gateways” together using a software normally used by online gamers called “TeamSpeak”. All you have to do to take a look is to read this short how-to and follow the steps.

Here’s a sneak-peak at the current status of the server:

There’s even a livestream available (but sometimes not working):

Source 1: http://www.freiesfunknetz.com/
Source 2: http://www.goteamspeak.com/

watch NASA TV live streams at higher bitrates (quality)

They landed on the mars again…and they will launch a space shuttle within the next 22 hours if everything works out as planned. So maybe you, just like me, are interested in getting some live-information about that.

There’s NASA TV but on the NASA website you only get low (150kbit) bitrate streams. If you want better quality, just try these links:

Of course you can always go with the standard website livestream…

how about 16.8 Terabytes of Mars? (the planet!)

You do realise that, despite that fact no mass media is talking about it, there are still robots around and on Mars doing research for the last years? Yeah you’re right: Spirit and Opportunity are still well and alive on Mars. There were several other missions and this newly released 9.9 Tbytes of data (adds up to 16.8 Tbytes) is just fantastic stuff.

See an avalanche on Mars:

PSP_007338_2640

“How much data was released? 2422 observations, making up 9.9 terabytes “in over 225,599 standard PDS and extras products” according to our database specialist. This was for data between orbit ranges 4400 and 6999, or between July 05, 2007 and January 23, 2008 (which is a lot of loops around the Red Planet!)

We have now released a total of 16.8 TB worth of data, or nearly 500,000 image products. Please check out the latest images on the HiRISE website on the “March 2008: New HiRISE Images Released to the Planetary Data System” page.”

Source 1: http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/HiBlog/?p=147
Source 2: http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/PSP_007338_2640
Source 3: http://pds-imaging.jpl.nasa.gov/
Source 4: http://hirise-pds.lpl.arizona.edu/PDS/
Source 5: http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html